Staff Updates

Staff Updates: August 2021

Sheridan Garman-Neeman, Executive Director

Recently Shannon Stewart and I submitted a USDA RISE grant. This grant will fund our ED programs, a workforce attraction plan, a business development specialist, and more. The federal funding picture is always changing, but right now there is an emphasis on regionalism, cooperation across organizations in a region, and workforce development. Work we have already been doing and plan to do fits this bill nicely, so we are set up for future grants. Thanks to you on our board and all of the county and city members for your partnership. In addition to the usual slate of meetings, a combination of in-person and zoom, I have been working with our consultant to finish up the regional workforce study. RFPs for the consultant to work with the counties and cities with ED programs are going out this week so that we can get that underway. I have been working with Ben on our team and our partners at EDA through a Technical Assistance grant we received to help with rehabbing the old state hospital. I am hoping we have this project done before I retire in 25 years! I am currently overseeing numerous projects at our organization, including five EDA applications across the region, the regional broadband study, and more. I have started interviewing for the open transportation planner position and am opening up an additional administrative position at Kaysinger. We have grown both in terms of budget and staffing-which means our capacity to assist our member communities has grown.  As we look at services to add in the future and what our cities and counties need, please feel free to reach out to me if you see an area where we can improve our services. Prioritization is underway, and I am currently reaching out to our cities and counties in order to gather their top transportation needs. The annual Prioritization meeting for the STIP will be in November. I will be working with the TAC to have our needs list together before then. Hopefully, I will get to bring along a new planner for this as well!

Ashley Swartz, Assistant Director

The CDBG application I wrote for the City of Deepwater for street improvements was awarded in May and I’m currently working on the environmental assessment. We are procuring for an engineer and one will be chosen next month. I am still working with the Preston Fire Department on a CDBG application for a new fire station. Surveying is underway to determine eligibility. The architect has completed the Preliminary Architect Report. We are just waiting for the grant cycle to open. There are still 70% tax credits for sale for Lily’s House in Adrian, and Friends of the Hickory County Health Department. If you know of any business interested in purchasing these tax credits, please send them my way. Both these organizations really need our help. This year, I will be writing our application for the State Regional Grant Program. I’m looking forward to learning about this new funding source. I will be starting classes again this fall to complete a skills certificate in Digital Media Communications. After this semester, only one class to go. I am very fortunate Kaysinger has allowed me to do this. The knowledge I have gained has really helped with our communications. The communications plan is finished and I’ve enjoyed working on the deliverables in the plan. Kaysinger’s new logo was revealed last month! So far, we have received great feedback. August 2nd, the first Kaysinger E-Newsletter was sent out. The newsletter will go out every other month on the even months. If you didn’t receive it, you can go here: and register. You can also follow along with all things Kaysinger by “liking” us on Facebook and following us on LinkedIn.

Teresa Heckenlively, St. Clair County Economic Development Director

In St. Clair County we have continued our work in Placemaking by working with Missourians for Responsible Transportation in Lowry City on the AD Grant. This grant provides technical assistance identifying missing infrastructure that disrupts connectivity to everyday destinations. MRT will use the findings to develop a plan that can be used by the City to apply for funding to help implement the plan. In Osceola, I have been working with the Osceola Community Chamber of Commerce, the Optimist Club, and the City to develop plans that will support business and the community. We met with Cindy McDaniel to discuss what is involved in becoming a Historic District, we are looking at creating a yearly publication that would include information about businesses in the county, events taking place, and places to see, and things to do, and how we can continue connectivity throughout the community. I have been working with partners at West Central Community Action Agency to plan the 4th annual Farm to Fork in 2022. This event has brought 150 people to St. Clair County to gain knowledge and resources to support local foods amongst growers, sellers, and eaters. 2021 Farm to Fork was a virtual conference so we are really excited to offer an in-person event in 2022. I am currently working to provide resources and support to five county businesses, two are in the planning stage. Each of these businesses is locally owned and operated and supports other locally owned and operated businesses by utilizing and or retailing local goods. As always I am meeting with County and City officials regularly to keep them up to date on my work and offer assistance and resources when needed.

Ben Vickers, Vernon County Economic Development Director

Since I started this position I have been leading a study of affordable housing stock in Nevada which is now completed. My conclusion on our housing assessment is that Vernon County primarily lacks variety in housing stock, leading both renters and buyers to compete for the same housing throughout town. The second most pressing issue is the availability of buildable lots both in a single continuous development site and throughout the community. The technical community advising me is currently reviewing the document prior to public release. Another ongoing project has been the Nevada HAB site. In April I had applied for Brownfield Assistance but my request was considered too large. With guidance from the EPA, I re-applied to the EPA for a Technical Brownfield assistance grant, which not only will identify any environmental problems with the 87-acre site, but also assist in redevelopment planning. Just two blocks away from the facility, the school district will be building a new elementary school, so redevelopment in this blighted portion of the city can serve many purposes including expansion of housing options. Using a phased approach, the city can begin redevelopment of this area fairly quickly. I still view this property as one of the best potential areas for redevelopment, but because there is a high risk of environmental issues we do need to proceed with caution. I am also working with the director of the Chamber of Commerce to start a joint tourism board for the city and the county. While at one time there was a fairly active tourism board in the city, it was disbanded. Next week we will hold a working session with the city council to iron out some of the details of what tourism should be in Nevada Mo. This will bolster the marketability of the city to visitors and even potential residents and businesses. I sincerely am enjoying my work as the Vernon County Economic Developer. Every day I get to work on and learn something new while working with some great people. In early June I was honored to attend the Annual National Site Selectors Guild Conference in Orlando, Fl with financial assistance from the Robert M. Ady scholarship. Here I was able to discuss national trends with leading site selectors, network with other EDs, and more. The following week I attended the Missouri Economic Development Council’s annual conference, where I had similar experiences but on a much more local level. Both conferences offered a number of advantages and opportunities that I look forward to exploring as I move forward.

Jo Ann Lane, Benton County Economic Development Director

May, June, and July remained eventful in Benton County with new business ribbon cuttings for Warsaw Adventures, Beautiful Faces, Third of June Boutique, Benton Ridge Winery & Campground, Circle F Boutique, and The Harbor @ City Union Mission.  Expansion ribbon cuttings were held for RiOak and Wine, Antiques & More.  I continue to work with new businesses that have recently opened or will open soon. It’s hard to believe I marked my 1-year anniversary in May.  It’s been a very exciting and busy year. It was our honor and pleasure to have Governor Mike Parson join us for two events on July 1st.  The first event was in Cole Camp at CC’s Butcher Shop. Governor Parson (G57) welcomed Rod & Crystal Casteel to the business community.  He spoke on Missouri agriculture, cattle, and keeping business in Missouri.  The governor assisted Ruger (Rod & Crystal’s son) cut the ribbon. An exciting announcement was made; they plan to have local beef in approximately 30 days.  Mitch & Leslie Grace from rural Warsaw were in attendance and will be the first.  An update… That did happen, on August 5th they sold the first cuts of beef from Grace Valley Beef, Benton County.  The second event for Benton County was the awarding of the Certified Work Ready Communities Resolution for Benton County.  Both events were well attended and we were fortunate the governor could attend. We are in the planning stages of our first annual Benton County Boutique Crawl which will happen this fall.  Keep watching!  I think this will be a great event and a way to showcase many of our entrepreneurs in the county. Benton County also has events planned in Cole Camp, Lincoln, and Warsaw to celebrate Missouri’s Bicentennial. Letters for builders, developers, and realtors are in progress with results from the Benton County Housing Study. I continue to attend meetings of the city council and chambers in Cole Camp, Lincoln, and Warsaw. There are several exciting projects in the works. As always, keep watching!

Dillon Harness, Disaster Recovery Coordinator

On May 26th, 2021, FEMA officially approved the 2021 St. Clair County Multi-jurisdictional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan. This only took one attempt, as most plans are usually required to make at least some revisions and resubmissions are common, but not in this case. While FEMA did point out opportunities for improvement when the 2026 plan is scheduled to be addressed at a later date, St. Clair County now officially has a new Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan that is effective until May 26th, 2026. I am extremely thankful for all who helped work on this plan and make it a reality, whether it’s our community representatives or the superintendents of the schools in St. Clair County, they are all rock stars who showcase why Hazard Mitigation is important. It is a team effort, and without the collaborative effort, this project would have taken much longer than it did to complete, and likely would not have been as effective as it was. So thank you to all in St. Clair County who assisted me in completing this plan and seeing it through to the end. As far as our neighbors in Benton County, we are making headway with getting their new Hazard Mitigation Plan through much of the same process that we went through in St. Clair County. As of right now, the final draft is nearing completion, with just a few minor tweaks being made A successful planning workshop was held in Lincoln at the end of May despite some rather bizarre weather that day, much was accomplished and it signaled a first for me since starting here. It was the first time since the pandemic hampered planning capabilities that an in-person meeting could be held with 10 or more people to accomplish such a task. The Benton County HMP will be submitted for FEMA approval in early fall, aiming for mid to late August, pending one minor revision. Other nuts and bolts from me include the completion of a Geographic Information System, or GIS, series of classes and training at the end of June. I can now do the basics with ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online. If you have mapping projects I can assist with, please give me a holler, and let’s work on some maps. Further, I underwent a series of training sessions through MU Extension on Broadband Planning, and I have taken on the regional broadband study. We will be engaging you soon to help us get more buy-in and speed tests from our community- so that we have speed tests from across the region and across a year’s time. From there, we will be able to move into a more concrete broadband planning stage.

Shannon Stewart, Grant Writing Specialist

It’s been a busy spring and summer in the grant world!  The National Park Service Paul Bruhn Historic Preservation grant was submitted and decisions will be made by September.  In addition to the Gary Sinise Foundation grant submitted for Osage Valley Fire Protection District, I also submitted a grant to Brothers Helping Brothers for turnout gear.  I assisted Lynette Stokes in Benton County with her Missouri Humanities grant submission for the Sac Osage Quilt Block Journey, which I am thrilled to say they were awarded!  I am the point of contact for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that will hopefully be in place soon. I, along with support from the economic development directors, have been working with cities/villages that need to update their vendor records and put in place the requirements that will allow them to receive ARPA funding from the state.  I am working to stay updated on the funding issues, and pass that information along to those in our service region.  I attended the Adrian city council meeting to discuss ARPA and provide clarity, as well as the Tightwad Board of Directors meeting, and the Vernon County meeting with Ben Vickers.  Upcoming meetings include the Village of Preston and Cross Timbers.  The Fristoe community center project was put on hold, however, they plan to revisit that in the fall, and I look forward to assisting them with crafting a diversified fundraising campaign for the community center renovation.  I attended the Missouri Association of Councils of Government meeting in June, which proved to be very insightful and educational.  I continue to expand my knowledge base through education and learning all I can about ARPA.  I foresee a busy late summer and fall, and I look forward to working with everyone to achieve their grant goals and utilization of ARPA funding. I have taken on the administration of our Quad Lakes Solid Waste District, and am currently working with the state to be trained on my responsibilities there. I look forward to administering this program, as it will give me the opportunity to give out grants rather than just be on the applicant side.

Katie Hunter, Administrative Assistant

My recent projects have been working with Ashley with NAP letters. Correcting addresses on ones that came back and searching for new ones. I am also working on updating and upgrading our technology. Including laptops and desktops. I have also been updating and organizing all the binders for the board meetings. Along with those projects, daily, I sort and deliver the mail, do and large printing and binding jobs for the EDs, run deposits and payments to the bank, deliver supplies to employees working outside the office, troubleshoot technical problems, take care of the flowers and clean and organize the office.